Digital marketing has quickly established itself as a reliable way for entrepreneurs across the globe to boost sales and ensure business growth. But digital marketing is dependent on technology, and because Africa still lacks tech-enabled solutions targeted at women specifically, the market is at a disadvantage.
The $20 billion African ecommerce market is finally experiencing a change, though. Recently launched e-commerce platforms have been optimized to help women across the socioeconomic classes by offering them online and offline channels to access products related to feminine healthcare, beauty, medical, and personal products. And not only that, these platforms also offer baby products and culturally taboo products such as contraceptives.
In this article, we’ll discuss the advancements available for female entrepreneurs in Africa by making them familiar with the tech landscape to grow their business – something that can ultimately help them launch their own business, products, and services. Plus, we’ll also cover how these movements can have a very positive impact on the African economy.
Understanding why e-commerce can be an exciting opportunity for Africa’s femtech landscape
The role of e-commerce in international business and commerce is steadily growing, both in terms of importance and numbers. Come 2022, worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to reach $6 trillion, which essentially means there are plenty of exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap into. More so, for women with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Africa’s female entrepreneurs certainly have many things going for them. There are about 57 million people who own smartphones in Africa, a 16% internet penetration, and around 175 million online shopping users. What is left is for women to make sure they have other requirements in place.
That includes researching the e-commerce business models to their respective niche and then begin working on validating target audience and product ideas. And before finalizing their business plan, they need to ensure the products and services are top quality and improve the look and functionality of their ecommerce stores as much as possible. As 87% of online business owners agree that improving the UX functionality of your ecommerce site needs to be a top priority, this isn’t something that any entrepreneur can afford to overlook.
But even with all of these measures in place, things won’t exactly be easy…
Breaking into a man’s world
African women entrepreneurs don’t have it easy for them when setting up their businesses. Let’s talk statistics to give you more insight into this issue.
- Only 2% of total investments by venture capitalists are sanctioned for startups founded by women on the global level. So you can imagine the percentage of these investments that finally makes it to Africa.
- Only 9% of startups in Africa have women leaders, which, as you may agree, is incredibly low.
As if the above statistics weren’t disheartening enough, people have no explanation for the limited number of women in tech startups. Many blame the traditional thought process for this.
You see, becoming an entrepreneur is unsafe, difficult, and risky. Culturally, women are groomed to believe that any kind of work or in the world that fits this description can never be good for them and instead are advised to dream big or aspire “too high.”
But really, what is aspiring too high or the landscape being too risky when managing online reputation to protect private information is possible and definitely not impossible?
In addition to this, even perception for female entrepreneurs requires an immediate change.
Loans are essential for launching businesses as African tradition isn’t flexible on women owning property, which, in turn, restricts their access to finance efforts if they don’t have collateral. Many financial institutions view men to be better risk takers and more likely to succeed when compared to their female counterparts. This is because women are considered high-risk customers to lend.
It’s not all bad news, though.
Tech companies today are facing pressure from around the world to take the initiative to understand women consumer’s needs and expectations – something which women leaders are best positioned to understand. This translates to more opportunities for femtech too. In other words, venture capitalists and investors actually lose out by not providing the required financial support to women entrepreneurs.
Even from a socio-economic point of view, it’s better to economically empower women. They typically invest 90% of their earnings back into their families and communities. As for men, the percentage stands at 30 to 40% only.
Also, female entrepreneurs don’t wait to be given an opening – they grab the opportunity and meet the demand. Since women are always open to using their unique perspective on challenges, we’ll soon see a shift in the gender disparity in industry niches, be it FinTech, Crypto, or e-commerce.
Steps being taken to bridge this gap
African women are strongly impacting the social and economic life of the continent. In fact, they are the main financial decision-makers regarding the healthcare, nutritional, and sundry needs of the household. Hence, the rise of the African women in the tech space should be a welcomed change, which organizations and changemakers are now slowly realizing.
There are also several things that help African women to further bridge the gap on the ecommerce front. The ATBN, for instance, has launched the #HerFutureAfrica project to create online content, host innovation boot camps, along with offering mentorship for all women who want to launch tech-focused businesses. The unique thing of this project is it will help African women by solving their unique pain points as opposed to the western audience.
A few North African countries have also already started developing start-up ecosystems that can support women, allowing them to navigate through some of these unique barriers to make their Johnny is easier. The concept of the “startup ecosystem“ is very broad as well, as it includes funding organizations, venture capitalist firms, mentor networks, as well as startups.
Another great alternative to create capital right now is to network. In fact, more female business networks should be set up, which gives women the platform to share their expertise and experiences. This will also help to create awareness at all levels of the importance of connecting and sharing ideas and experiences.
Additionally, female entrepreneurs can utilize popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce, which offer various convenient features including easy checkout systems, email marketing integration, and proper security to prevent data breaches and hacks, which have been on the rise since the. This can make the buying and selling of goods online a more easy and effortless process that can help to contribute towards successful entrepreneurial ventures on the African continent.
Ultimately, all these efforts will build a pipeline for tech entrepreneurs to help them build carefully laid out tech projects.
The femtech space has tremendous potential, with women displaying incredible skills and ambition to build successful tech start-ups. However, for this to happen certain changes are required. More precisely, it’s the old mindset that technology or big businesses are for women that has to change, and change right now.
As for African women, they need to start taking advantage of specialized projects and online e-commerce platforms that can make their dreams a reality. They have to use tactics like deciding on a good platform for displaying their products and services, using smart retention techniques to establish a loyal fan base, and, most importantly, have that entrepreneurial spirit and ambition to achieve their goals.